[NetBehaviour] About Networked Painting

Curt Cloninger curt at lab404.com
Thu Mar 18 18:02:53 CET 2010

Hi Yann,

My question still stands regarding what is gained and what is lost by 
using the term "painting" to describe this work. [As Alan points out, 
the terms "gain" and "loss" are problematic/subjective (as all terms 
are), but that doesn't mean they are pragmatically useless or 
critically irrelevant, particularly when posed to you as a practicing 
artist.] In your description of the work below, you use the word 
"picture" rather than painting. I think you are right to use the word 
picture rather than painting -- these "pictures" seem better 
understood as digital photographs (modified algorithmically according 
to network input). So what is gained and what is lost by calling them 
"networked paintings" as opposed to something like "networked 


Just by way of comparison, here is a great project of what might be 
termed "generative drawing":
artist statement here:
create your own "drawings" here:
curate and sell your own drawings (and the  drawings of others) here:

Regarding the above work, technically...
There is an amount of source material created by the "artist" (a 
database of scanned analog doodles).
There is a generative environment with parameters established by the "artist."
The "user" is allowed to input certain variables into that environment.
The result is a "collaborative" piece of work which is purposefully 
situated within an online "economy."

The project above is fruitfully approached from a critical 
perspective as "drawing," but the artist also draws attention (by the 
term "larding") to Oulipo poetry and (by the title "time().mt_rand"), 
to computer time-stamping procedures. To me, the para-art language 
that the artist uses to contextualize this piece of work foregrounds 
salient, relevant aspects of the work, both in terms of the "art 
history" of drawing and the contemporary new media "theory" of 
computational, networked, interactive art (not to mention issues of 
curation, web 2.0 rebloggability as a form of curation, salability of 
the art object, online economies, "originality" of the artist, 
"uniqueness" of the art object). In other words, the language that 
the artist uses to talk about the work is very much aware of what the 
work itself is doing in the world (on+off-line). More is gained than 
is lost by this kind of para-art language.


My critique is not of your work. Your project itself interestingly 
foregrounds the "unique/original" reception of a "single" piece of 
work, by encoding elements of that unique reception into the 
"singular" piece of work itself. It is very much related to 
Benjamin's observations regarding the difference between viewing a 
unique/original auratic object (be it a panting or a stationary 
sculpture) and viewing a mechanically reproduced object (be it a 
print, an analog photograph, a movie, a video, a digital photograph). 
My hesitance is with your use of the word "painting" in the language 
of your artist statment. Given the work you are describing, that word 
"painting" seems too underdetermined and vague. It stakes too broad a 
claim. It opens up all sorts of tangential cans of worms (flatness, 
brushstroke, materials, abstraction vs. figuration, "subjectivity" of 
the artists eye vs. "objectivity" of the camera lens, etc.)  that the 
work itself is not (yet) opening up. Undoubtedly "painting" is useful 
in other contexts to desecribe other pieces of new media work (some 
of Mark Napier's work comes to mind as very "painterly" in terms of 
his treatment of code and in terms of the texture of his resultant 
visuals). But "painting" as applied to this work seems to lose more 
than it gains.


>(well, i try another reply strategy in order to allow this post to go
>through the list, let's test...)
>In reply to Curt Cloninger :
>Yes, that's for me a very important point to address. In several works
>(1) i use the IP address of the spectator to compose the picture, so the
>picture is unique according to this spectator. The picture takes place
>only where the spectator is looking at it. From this point of view
>(reception, uniqueness of the picture), it seems that it has more
>to do with painting than with photography or algorithmic generative art.
>This is conceptually ok if i don't save generated pictures and show them
>to others. It's a another possibility, but it changes the relation
>between the spectator and the picture, and as a consequence, the nature
>of the picture. 'Networked painting' is a way to explore this
>relational/interaction space between users/spectators and pictures.
>(1) examples:
>NetBehaviour mailing list
>NetBehaviour at netbehaviour.org

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